Homelessness Inquiry Update
Over the last twelve months, I have had the privilege to participate in the parliamentary Inquiry into Homelessness in Victoria. This inquiry has opened my eyes to understand that Homelessness is a complex and multifaceted issue that effects a wide array of individuals from a range of backgrounds. I believe this inquiry is the right step towards addressing Homelessness in Victoria. As a community, we need to work together to identify potential policies, practices and methods to assist those experiencing homelessness as well as ways to prevent individuals from becoming homeless.
Across Victoria on any given night, there is approximately 1,100 people sleeping rough. However, homelessness encompasses more than those who are sleeping rough. It also includes those in inadequate housing or with short term and unstable housing arrangements. The last ABS Census Night revealed that 35% of 24,825 people experiencing homelessness in Victoria were in overcrowded house and flats.
As a community we need to openly discuss homelessness to break the stigma around the issue and reveal the real problems that cause homelessness rather than focusing on the stereotype of a man lying on the street. Homelessness can occur as a result of domestic violence, need for crisis housing due to natural disaster or unexpected housing issues, financial difficulties, job loss, as well as mental health issues and alcohol and drug abuse.
On the 4th August 2020, the Interim Report by the Committee was released. It revealed a snapshot of the inquiry’s preliminary findings based on a survey of those who made a submission to the inquiry. The survey highlighted that public housing and affordable housing is a priority issue.
It is essential that all Victorians have safe, stable and affordable housing. During COVID-19, approximately 7000 individuals have been provided with shelter as part of the $150 million package to get homeless people into hotel and rental accommodation until April next year.
This program has seen other benefits such as enabling social workers and other health services the ability to effectively connect with those experiencing homelessness. As a result, these individuals are able to progress to permanent accommodation quicker. This is because the unstable living arrangements experienced by homeless people makes it difficult for services to get in contact with these individuals normally.
I believe that there is lesson to be learnt from this program in providing effective support and housing. As the inquiry heard from Finland’s success story, offering rental housing as well as specialised housing solutions for those recovering from mental health issues and substance abuse is about ensuring that everyone has comfortable housing but also have access to the services they require. Thus, enabling them to retake control of their own lives.
I, alongside the Legal and Social Issues Committee, will continue to investigate the factors that impact on homelessness and identify policies and practices from all levels of government that have a bearing on delivering services to the homeless over the next few months.
The Final Report was tabled on March 4th 2021.
You can access the interim report at: https://bit.ly/3ioYxQh
You can view the transcripts and recordings of the public hearings at: https://bit.ly/2PGKYj8
You can view the final report at: https://bit.ly/3uOWFrc
Since the inquiry –
The Government has begun its Big Housing Build. This is an initiative that aligns strongly with the report’s recommendations to provide more long-term housing for the homeless.
However, while this project may increase Victoria’s social housing stock by 10%, this will not ensure Victoria meets the national average of social housing as a percentage of total dwellings, which is 4.5%. There is still more work that needs to be done to provide long-term housing to the homeless.
The report recommended that the government advocate the Commonwealth Government to permanently increase the rate of JobSeeker payments. While a permanent increase did occur, the increase was insufficient in addressing the financial suffering that is being experienced by many in our communities. The increase amounted to a mere $3.60 a day, not even enough for a cup of coffee.
There is more that needs to be done. Rod looks forward to hearing the Government’s response to the Inquiry’s recommendations that is required within 6 months of the report being tabled.
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